Amendment to Unlawful Detainer Statutes Affects “Public Records Mask”

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California AB 2819, which will take effect on January 1, 2017, now maintains the public records mask on limited unlawful detainer actions (under Cal. Code Civ. Proc., §1161.2) unless a plaintiff prevails in 60 days. (Currently, the statute automatically unmasks the record, unless a defendant prevails in 60 days).

It also adds a Section 1167.1 to the unlawful detainer statutes, which will allow a court to dismiss an unlawful detainer action unless a proof of service is filed within 60 days.

The new provisions are a result of efforts by Assembly Member David Chiu, who urged that “Tenants who prevail in eviction lawsuits should not be placed wrongfully on tenant blacklists”.

The changes shift the balance from the public policy promoting open access to public records in favor of protecting tenants from the stigma of having an eviction on their “record” (whether or not they ultimately prevailed). (The past few years has seen an increase in evictions, which is arguably tied more to increase in housing costs more than an increase in violative behavior.)

On the other hand, landlords have an interest in learning about the eviction history of their prospective tenants. The new law also creates an incentive for defendants to stall the unlawful detainer “summary proceeding” for at least 60 days, to trigger the maintaining of the mask.